Harvard Bible Course on Pauline Letters Generates Global Interest

Harvard Seal Credit IngfbrunoCAMBRIDGE, Mass. — A Harvard Bible course about the Pauline letters has generated huge interest, with thousands registering to take the course from all over the world.

The Harvard Bible edX course entitled Early Christianity: The Letters of Paul has drawn 22,000 students from more than 100 countries around the world—and the number is still growing.

Laura Nasrallah, professor of New Testament and Early Christianity and course instructor, told the Huffington Post in an email that she was pleased with the interest the course had generated and that Paul was proving to be more popular than famous people.

“The day the course was launched was astonishing—like drinking from a fire hose,” she said. “The edX discussion threads couldn’t handle the amount of people who were commenting, and crashed and slowed down. More people participated on Poetry Genius that day than ever before; the apostle Paul beat out Beyoncé.”

Reflecting on why the biblical letters still have significance in the world now, Nasrallah said in a video to promote the course that the letters penned by Paul answered incredibly important moral issues that face our world today.

“They are in part a set of texts today that define people’s stance on moral issues; what about abortion, what about gay rights, what about women in leadership in religious communities?” she asked. “These letters still have a power today.”

The course, which began last week, attracted 22,000 students across 180 countries. More than 14,000 of those students accessed the software, spending a total of 2,822 hours on the course so far (201 days).

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The course forum boards, which allow discussions between students, have reached 22,000 posts and are increasing every day.

The subject explores the content of the New Testament letters as well as the wider context of the Roman Empire. The program also looks at the permanent impact of the letters on today’s world. The syllabus explores the religious political context, their first interpretations and how and why they have such an impact on society today.

According to the course outline, “The letters of Paul are the earliest texts in the Christian scriptures, written by a Jew at a time when the word ‘Christian’ hadn’t yet been coined.”

Nasrallah told the Huffington Post that the discussions on the boards have been respectful so far.

“One ‘conversation’ I read was between a self-proclaimed atheist and someone who self-identified as a born-again Christian,” she said. “And the discussion was thoughtful and respectful although they differed in interpretation!”

edX is an online course platform founded by Harvard University and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) in 2012. It is a non-profit that delivers university level course material to global audiences for free.

Harvard offers 21 courses on the platform, as do other universities offer courses. These include MIT, University of California Berkley, Cornell University and Peking University.

Those taking part in the course do not receive a certificate from Harvard University.

Photo: Ingfbruno/Wikipedia


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  • Sir Tainly

    Waitaminute….an atheist and a born again Christian had a respectful conversation in spite of their different world views…..THANK GOD!

    • Donato86

      Those (brave souls) who completed this tough class really ‘DO’ get a Certificate from Edx, and Harvard-Edx. I just got mine, and was glad to be among the Survivors who did the homework in 1544.1x, ‘Letters of Paul.’ Edx is like a Advertising (Sales and Marketing) portal for great classes from some of the best Colleges in America. Visit Edx.org.

  • Donato86

    This TEACHER (and Course Team) get FIVE Stars ! It is a very hard course, with 20 Hours a week of HW, but also very rewarding. Highly recommended if you have time for a graduate course.

    Dr. Laura Nasrallah @ Harvard on ‘Letters of Paul’ (HDS 1544.1x)

    Harvard (EdX and Laura) offers a FREE college course on NT Epistles, Pauline Theology.  It’s multi-lingual, in English and Spanish, but it requires a good computer, a printer, and high-speed internet. A MOCC is available to anyone, anywhere, at any-time.  Her lectures are available 24×7, with five 9’s of uptime.  That’s at least 99.9 % of the time. The computer Gurus of Boston manage the delivery, Laura provides the content.

    Where did she come from ?  She’s a Harvard Professor, a solid teacher. She’s contributes to educational Free-ware, FREE instruction at the Click of a Mouse. If you reach Yahoo, you will be in her Lecture Room at Harvard. Then learn and enjoy. This course was Joy and fun. It’s not for the faint of heart. If you take this course, make sure you’re IN the first day or First week of class. If not, you can quickly fall behind. Stay caught up on your Homework. Don’t make her get that virtual ‘Wooden Ruler’ out of her Desk drawer !

    The student body in 1544 is superb. You study with Champions, industrial heavy-weights from every nation, every occupation. The older (and retired) students in class is a huge plus. Build your own network of elite advisors who have retired from nearly every occupation. What they Post in Chat Sessions is phenomenal. The international Flavor of this course is superb.

    Who is Laura Nasrallah ? 

    “The voice of one crying in the wilderness” of modern Distance Learning, higher education, and MOOC assemblies. Prof Nasrallah is the face of God’s international redeeming Love, speaking with the lips of Harvard, and the voice of Princeton. She does this in an exquisite and luxurious way. She’s delightful and entertaining.

    Laura has a Joy and enthusiasm sharing her Subject. She takes us 2,000 years back in time to the Publishing and Manufacturing (engineering) process of Letter Writing (and ideals) of the First Century. She includes lifestyles, Labor and Management, Philosophy, History, Marriage, and Religion. This truck load of blessings comes packaged in just one Lady Princeton Tiger. Roar !

    Laura dumps an ocean of rich wisdom into your lap. How can we use these insights into Wisdom, and Paul’s Jewish ethics of right and wrong, good and bad ? It can only be used in 4 parts of your Life. That is, in – Relationships (at home and at community); at work (a Career, Occupation), in Material Assets (Finance, Money), and Health (Healing, Wholeness, Holistic living). So, the application of what Laura presents can only change and transform your entire LIFE !

    The content. If you’re looking for some New Age, whacky, way out ideas – Stay away. She is straight edge, conservative, and charismatic in a refreshing way. She understands mainline denominations, and stays in the middle of the road. I was not disappointed. I expected to learn more about God, Life, marriage, health, and how to excel in the workplace. That’s what I got.

    Laura is an emerging Rock-Star in the (gospel) MOOC format.  She’s a contemporary of authors and Televangelists like Beth Moore, Kay Arthur, Joyce Meyer, Janet Parshall, and Mother Angelica.  They built on earlier success of – Maria Woodworth-Etter, Aimee Semple McPherson, Anne Dutton, Elizabeth Ann Seton, St Therese, and St Catherine.

    Jesus of Nazareth spent most of His life within a 100 Mile radius of Nazareth and Jerusalem. He wore a robe and sandals, taught face to face, and walked from Town to town. Dr. Laura relentlessly proclaims her message Non-stop, 24×7, around the world, as students Logon. Laura spreads the Good News around the clock at the speed of Light ! “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.” (John 14:12)

    If you’re hungry to discover what’s inside of your Bible, register and logon. If you want to be become strong and prosperous in every aspect of your life – Dive in !

    Donato en Saint Louis